Hundreds of illegal immigrants released

1:41 AM, Feb 28, 2013   |    comments
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(AP file)

ATLANTA -- The Department of Homeland Security has released a wave of immigrant detainees from detention centers in anticipation of looming budget cuts in Washington. Some of those are from detention centers here in Atlanta and the state of Georgia, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Republicans argue the government is putting more criminals on the street. Some say the detainees being released will abscond and not show up for their court hearings.

In a statement U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said the releases are necessary "in order to make the best use of limited detention resources."

ICE said detainees have been released from four detention centers in the state of Georgia including the Atlanta City Detention Center. Immigration detainees are held at three other detention centers including North Georgia Detention Center in Gainesville, Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin and Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says detention is now for the most serious offenders. "The guidance we have given to ICE and ICE agents is to focus on those who commit other crimes, who are repeat violators, who are fugitives from existing warrants and taking those who are low priority out of the system," she said.

But Phil Kent, who is on Georgia's Immigration Enforcement Review Board, said many of those detainees who are released probably won't be heard from again. "I don't think there's going to be the supervision," he said. "This is the wrong move to do. They could have laid off some of the bureaucrats at the desk jobs rather than to make these releases."

The government has not dropped the deportation cases against the immigrants who are being released. ICE said they will be supervised in different ways, from ankle monitors to being required to check in with ICE agents on a frequent basis.

You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kgrowson

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